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Avro Jetliner

AVRO C102 Jetliner
North America's First 1949-1956

This republication has been made possible thanks to the assistance of
The Society of Automotive Engineers
and Dr. James C. Floyd. This is quite a lengthy lecture and was presented in January 1950. We hope you enjoy this piece of aviation history.
Scott McArthur. Webmaster, Arrow Recovery Canad

   Canada was years ahead of any other country in the design and development of intercity jet transport in 1950-51.


         On August 10th 1949, the Avro C-102 jet transport, now better known as the Jetliner, made its first flight.

       This aircraft was the first civil jet transport to fly on the North American Continent and missed by only thirteen days the honour of being the world's first jet transport to actually fly, which went to the British De Havilland 'Comet'.

         The main purpose of this paper is to give a brief summary of the design and general problems, which were encountered in the development of the prototype up to the present flight test stage.

      Before proceeding with the main portion of the paper, however, and with apologies to the technical reader, the author would like to give a short account of the events which immediately preceded the first flight.


       On the 25th of July, the last stages of preparation for flight were nearing completion and the aircraft had reached the stage of final inspection and last minute test checking.

       We had worked on the project for almost three years and had of course had numerous set backs, the biggest of which was the inability of the engine manufacturers to suppoy the original twin engines, and we had had to completely change the design of the aircraft to accommodate four engines of a different type.

     Having reached the final inspection stage, we thought therefore that most of our bridges were crossed and all that we had to do was get our aircraft into the air. It just shows how optimistic you can get.

     Two days later on July the 27th, it was announced over the radio that the De Havilland "Comet" had made its first flight. It was true that it had only hopped a few feet into the air, but we realized that we had missed by just a few days the honour of being the first people in the world with a true jet transport.

      Then to make life still a little more complicated, the Department of Transport deceided to tear up the runways at Malton, and carry out extensive modifications, which were not scheduled to be finished until some time towards the end of August. We were informed, however, by DOT that we would have one runway on which to land, the 14-32 runway running north east and south west, with a bituminous surface, and we would also have a short piece of concrete runway on which to carry out our engine runs and taxi trails.

        Then to confuse things still further, the tempurature deceided to take a hand in the proceedings, and for several days before the first flight was anticipated, it hovered between 90 and 100 degrees fahrenheight.

        Final engine runs having been completed over the week end, the aircraft was wheeled out of the hanger on Monday Augest the 8th to start taxi trails. As a special favor the tempurature had gone up to 103 deg F, nevertheless, we carried out our taxi runs, braking tests, steering control tests, and towards early evening deceided that it might be possible to attempt a hop, and take the aircraft a few feet off the ground.

        It was not a very easy decision to make in view of the fact that we had to contend with what was probably the highest temperature of the whole year, and with engines which were very much more susceptible to temperature than normal reciprocating engines. We had a very short runway, due to the alterations to the rest of the runways, and the pilot was handling a completely new type of aircraft, the performance of which could only be predicted at that time.

                We had calculated the distance required to take off and the decelerated stop after the hop, and from our calculations, there were only a few feet of runway left for pilot's error.

                 The aircraft taxied down to the north east end of the runway, wasting as little space as possible, the throttles were opened up, the aircraft accelerated, and at about 90 mph, the nose wheel came off the deck. A few seconds later, there were four loud and ominous reports, the nose wheel came down, and the aircraft decelerated to a stop, just a few feet from the far end of the runway. The pilot had realized that he just could not make it and had applied the brakes a little too early before the weight of the aircraft was on the wheels, the wheels had locked, and all four tires had blown out. In spite of this, the pilot had been easily able to keep the aircraft on the runway, and there was no damage to the wheels or brakes or any other portions of the aircraft.

                 The aircraft was wheeled back into the hangar, the tires were changed, and the next day more taxi runs were carried out to enable the pilot to feel out the brakes before making another attempt at a hop.

                 On Wednesday morning, August the 10th, three more runs were made and a hop was attempted on the third run. This time, the two main wheels on the starboard side of the aircraft blew out, and the pilot again brought the aircraft to rest dead in the centre of the runway, and this time with quite a bit of runway to spare.

                 The tires were quickly changed and a conference held to decide whether any more attempts at a hop would be made, as It was getting a little expensive on the tires, and also on the nerves of the pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer who had to sit in the aircraft wondering what was going to happen next.

                 The pilot decided that the next time he went down the runway he would rather take her up and "have done with it", as he expressed it. The crew took time out for lunch, and after returning, decided that in spite of a small gale that was blowing with quite a stiff crosswind on the only available runway, and the fact  that the temperature was FIG 1around 103degF, the next time they went down on the runway, they would Just keep on going, and so just after lunch on Wednesday, August the 10th, the Jetliner came down the runway, lifted off the deck after a relatively short run, and gracefully climbed up to about 500 ft. where the pilot tried out the controls.

                 He did a circuit of the field, and then asked for clearance to bring her over the spot where the ground crew were standing to let the boys have a look at  the aircraft in the air. He then climbed away to 8,000 ft. and reported after a few minutes flying, that everything felt wonderful, and needless to say, everyone on the ground felt pretty good too.

                 After a flight of about one hour, during which time the aircraft was flying at altitudes up to around 13,000 ft., the aircraft was again seen, preparing for landing. By this time, the weather man had turned on a crosswind of 35 mph at approximately 50deg to the runway, but the pilot made an extremely short landing, and taxied the aircraft down to the group of people waiting at the dispersal point.

                  There was a general slapping of backs and congratulations all round, the aircraft was wheeled back to the hangar and the first flight of North America's first jet transport was all over.

                 Since that time, the aircraft has done approximately thirty flights, during which much valuable data has been accumulated, and the aircraft is now well on the way to completing the tests, which have to be carried out before the aircraft can be put up for C.A.A. approval.

                It may be worth while mentioning one or two of the highlights of this test programme.

               The most spectacular was probably the second flight, when after almost an hour in the air, it was found that it was not possible to extend the undercarriage, and it eas discovered later that this was due to a fault in the main undercarriage gear. After losing most of the hydraulic oil in the system, the pilot was forced to land with the nose wheel down, the main gear up, and no flaps. The fact that the flaps were up made the plane float, and the biggest problem was getting it down at all, but after three runs, the pilots brought the aircraft down on a grass verge at the end of the runway, and skidded to a stop approximately 50 ft. from the airport fencing.

               The only damage sustained was four bent jet pipes and a caved-in plating in the rear of the fuselage, and the landing only served to highlight the safety of an aircraft which had no propellers to get in the way on an emergancy such as this. The nacelles were repaired, and the aircraft was flying again in just over four weeks, having completed a test which no manufacturer would dare to carry out at this stage in the life of a prototype, unless by accident, as in this case.

               There is no doubt that we got a lot of data from this test, and we also learned something from the tire bursting episode, as it was proved that the aircraft could be brought to rest easily with any tires burst, in any order.

              Another series of tests probably worth mentioning are the engine cuts at take-off. An outboard engine was shut down at various speeds between 130 mph and 75 mph, it was still possible to take off and have plenty of rudder power to spare.

             A lot of excellent data has also been accumulated on the low speed charactistics of the aircragt. These have proved that the low speed characteristics are just as good on a high speed aircraft, if it is designed properly, as on the present conventional low speed type of aircraft.

            Before the jet transport had actually flown, there were many criticisms of this type of aircraft, and some of them were so bitter that one would almost think that they had been instigated by the manufactures of propellers and their attendant controls.

              One of the criticisms was, that the runways and ground personnel would probably get burned up when these aircraft were operating. It would have done the critics good to see the official flight of the Jetliner. On this day, the engines were started while the aircraft was standing next to the big marquee containing the refreshments. As the aircraft moved away, the people generally crowded in to get a good look, and some of the press photographers appeared to be almost trying to climb inside the jet pipe nozzles to photograph the flames around the turbine, and nobody even got their eye lashes singed.

               Another point that has been grossly over-exaggerated is the takeoff and landing distance required with the jet airliner. The Jetliner has been repeatedly taken off and landed at weights up to 57,000 lb. T. 0. gross weight during tests, in distances of around 1,000 to 1,500 ft. and in one case, landed at an average landing weight, less than 950 ft. from the approach end of the runway.

               Numerous tests on relightig procedures in the air have been carried out, and engines have been shut down and restarted at various stages during test flights, and it has never been necessary to attempt more than one start on any engine. The results have been so good, that it is now felt that relighting in the air is not only feasible, but if carried out correctly is entirely without hazzard.

               Probably the most noticeable improvement inside the aircraft is the amazing lack of noise. The test equipment for automatic recorder on the Jetliner is about twenty feet aft of the cockpit, in the fuselage, and the observer sits at this station with the various instruments and cameras. It Is possible to converse without using the aircraft inter-com by just carrying out a normal conversation between the cockpit and the observers station.

               On one flight when a Lancaster aircraft was being flown along side the Jetliner to get some photographs for the press, the roar of the Merlin engines were quite apparent from inside the Jetliner. It was almost possible to tell without looking out of the window just how close the Lancaster was at any time.

               The lack of vibration is also very noticeable, and special vibrators have had to be fitted on the instrument panels to prevent instrument needles sticking. During the high speed runs which were recently made at 30,000 ft., at which time the aircraft reached speeds up to 500 mph, descent procedures ware checked from 30,000 ft., and the aircraft was brought down at a rate approximately 3,000 ft. a minute with the use of the dive flaps fitted on the aircraft. There was no sensation of rapid descent, and in fact, two of the observers had no idea that the aircraft was descending at all, and were surprised to find themselves at 20,000 ft. when they were at the opinion that they were taking readings at 30,000 ft.

                The aircraft is at present being fitted with the necessary equipment to test the air conditioning and pressurizing system, carry out cruise control, and make a final assement of the aerodynamics. To date, the test program has gone extremely well, and a large ammount of data has been amassed in a relatively short time.

                Without giving away any secrets, it can be said that up to the present time, them has been surprisingly few snags, and to quote from the pilots official report, "The aircraft has behaved magnificently and is a very easy aircraft to fly".

                The following portion of the paper gives a brief history of the project and covers some of the Technical problems encountered in the design.

"Copyright 1951 Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc. This paper is published on this web-site with permission from the Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc. As a user of this web-site, you are permitted to view this paper on-line, download the pdf file and to print a copy at no cost for your use only. Downloaded pdf files and printouts of the SAE paper contained on this web-site may not be copied or distributed to others or for the use of others."
Scott McArthur.




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